Introduction With the campaign ‘New Labour Because Britain Deserves Better’, it appeared that the new look of the Labour Party was so promising that most Britons have poured their votes for the Labour Party, and Tony Blair and his family moved to stay at the 10 th Downing Street. It is said that the New Labour won the election, because they have tried to understand what British people wanted. Like it or not, the New Labour has simply followed Margaret Thatcher’s achievements. Moreover, Tony Blair and his aides have consistently used Thatcher ite rhetoric to strengthen his ‘New’ credentials such as the use of ‘No turning back’ and ‘No, no, no.’ (The Guardian, April 20, 1999) Thus, based on the assumption that the Left Wing has adopted the Right Wing policies, this report attempts to find differences and similarities of Mrs. Margaret Thatcher’s and Mr. Tony Blair’s domestic and foreign affairs policies as well as the impacts on Britain.
Background The United Kingdom is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Its constitution is partly unwritten and flexible. Also, politics in Britain is a two-party politics, and the system of British government is built around the existence of competing political parties, having distinctive policies and views, particularly The Conservative Party and the Labour Party, which are the dominant parties nowadays. To understand the management policies, it is worth looking into the political philosophy of both rival parties. The Conservative Party The Conservative Party or formally National Union of Conservative and Unionist Associations is a right-of-centre political party. It is the heir and continuation of the old Tory Party, members of which began forming Conservation Association after Britain’s first Reform Act of 1832, extended electoral rights to the middle class.
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Formed by Sir Robert Peel in 1834, the first Conservative government announced the reform of abuse; the importance of law and order and of the police; orderly system of taxation, and the importance of both landed interests and of trade and industry. Among former Conservative Prime Ministers, there are two well-known persons, who shall be mentioned here. Firstly, during World War II, The Conservative Party dominated national office and Winston Churchill (later became Sir Winston) led Britain to victory in 1945. Secondly, Margaret Thatcher (b. 13 Oct 1925) and later being made as Baroness Thatcher of Ke steven was the first European and British Prime Minister (1979-1990).
Not only did she win three consecutive terms in the 20 th century, but she also was Britain’s longest-serving Prime Minister since 1827.
Being called as ‘Iron Lady’, Thatcher pursued the policies mainly on reengineering of public sectors, monetarism, and privatization of state-own enterprises. In 1990 her policies regarding European monetary and political integration caused doubts within the party and forced her resign from the Conservative Party leadership. The Labour Party Founded in 1906, The Labour Party was originally formed to provide a distinct Labour group and interests inside Parliament. The party is comprised of trade unions, socialist and co-operative groups, providing its membership and income.
The party dogma and beliefs are based on the idea of equality (classless society), the state involvement in society, public ownership of major industries, and high level of public expenditure and taxation. (Sallis, 1982: 47) It is noteworthy that the party has put the notion of the system of welfare benefits in form of the National Health Service into operation, including the system of social securities benefits. However, when Blair has become the party leader in 1994, he has adjusted the Labour Party standpoint by calling for the party to move to the political centre (no longer a left-centre-party) and de-emphasize its traditional advocacy of state control and public ownership. Plus, colourful policies were announced: free enterprise, anti-inflationary policies, aggressive crime prevention, and support for Britain’s integration into the European economy. Based on the assumption that Britons were getting fed up with the Conservative Party, ruling uninterruptedly for 18 years and wanted a change, the Labour achieved a landslide victory over the Conservatives in the General Election on 1 May 1997 and Blair became the Prime Minister. Differences and Similarities It is likely that although the political beliefs of the Conservative and the Labour Party are on the opposite corners, their policies do have, more or less, some similarities.
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Topics of domestic & foreign affairs policies of both parties and the impacts on Britain, particularly during Thatcher’s and Blair’s periods will be discussed hereunder. 1. Domestic Policies Basically, the British government will take care of their people since they were born, go to school, get sick, get sacked and get old. To extend this point, Britain has the social-securities system, which provides financial aids for sickness, maternity, disability, unemployment, old-age, invalidity and survivor pensions. The National Health Service (NHS), established in 1948, offers free medical services to the public through a network of more than 2, 000 hospitals. The Environmental agency sees to air quality since 1956.
The government also handles the housing. Education is compulsory and free for children between the ages of 5 to 16. Even business, several important industries belong to the government. It is obvious that the British governments have had close involvements with their people for years.
Margaret Thatcher’s Home Policies During early 80 s, Britain was faced with the effects of a world economic recession, with high unemployment rate and strikes from the unions. It was Mrs. Thatcher who set out to end socialism in Britain, after the Labour Party ruled the country for 6 previous years. She tackled the problems step by step- making secondary strikes and boycotts illegal, providing for fines, allocation of union funds, for the violation of law and taking measures for ending the closed shop. As the Prime Minister, she declared manifesto promises, which were reducing inflation, keeping independent nuclear deterrent, remaining a member of EC, and lowering the rates of income tax. Being a neoliberal wing of the party, Mrs.
... country, in contrast with local governments. P2 What is the impact of policies on different public services Public services are provided by various levels ... having to choose between eating and heating. Privatisation of rail industry resulting in obscene charges causing people to spend more and ... living their life on the dole, the same as when Thatcher was in power. Raising of VAT and employee NI and ...
Thatcher took a new line of policy called ‘monetarism’ and later internationally known as ‘Thatcherism’ (Metcalfe & Richards, 1987: 1).
It means authorities should control the supply of money and any attempts to tune the economy by fiscal means should be abandoned. At the same time, the PM planed to reduce the number of civil servants and privatize selected areas of government activities. Notably, these policies can be considered as ‘innovations’ of the century and continue to having impacts on Britain today.
Not to miss, further details are as follows: Monetarism or Thatcherism It was believed that once the inflation was tackled, the unemployment problem would be automatically solved. Thus, the reduction of inflation was her main priority. By stating ‘Rolling back the frontiers of the state’, The PM had commitments that the government should get off the backs of its citizens and taxpayers and every effort should be made to give incentives to private sectors wealth creation as against public sector wealth consumption (ibid).
Now, questions may be raised as to where the policies were from. It is interesting that during Mrs. Thatcher sat on the frontbench in the Green Room, she had a terrific backup team.
She set up Policy Unit at the 10 Downing Street as her own private think tank. There were Keith Joseph, Sir John Hoskins, David Wolfson (a computer expert), Sir Alan Walters, an economic professor and Sir Derek Rayner (CEO at Marks & Spencer).
In making the control of inflation, the Thatcher government adopted Keynesian economic policies and monetarism. It is assumed that a Keynesian approach will use public sector resources to stimulate economic activities through the investment in the infrastructure, whereas a monetarist approach will neutralize the economic effects of public spending so that market forces could operate more freely (Derbyshire, 1984: 168).
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Administrative Reform Thatcherism also included a clear political commitment to reduce the size of the civil service and increase the efficiency of government. The programme to improve management and efficiency in government was led by Sir Rayner, and later was known as ‘the Rayner Unit’ or ‘Raynerism’.
First of all, 100, 000 civil service jobs were cut. Secondly, senior officials had to learn skills of managing resources and improve departmental performance. The matter of fact was that the Prime Minister herself wanted to see both the improvement in government departments and the atti tude & behaviour changes of the civil servants (Metcalfe & Richards, 1987: 2-3) Privatization The British government has an important stake in industry, such as British National Oil, Atomic Energy Authority, British Steel, British Shipbuilders, or British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and others. Some major public enterprises have been privatized, and others are in the process of being prepared for privatization. The privatized ones were British Rail, British Aerospace, British Telecommunications, as well as British Petroleum. The Conservative Party believed that not only the public sector of industry was largely inefficient and lacks the cutting edge of competition, which private enterprises had, but the government should not own industry.
To reduce the subsidies for them (and to provide additional sources of finance) and to produce considerable revenues for the government, Mrs. Thatcher promoted the privatization of these industries. Hence, it should be noted that the term ‘public enterprise’ refers to those industries, which produce good and services for sale and owned by the government, in other words, the government’s ownership on behalf of the general public. Unlike public limited companies, the term ‘public’ means that shares in them are available for sale to the general public. However, some government-owned industries, like Roll Royce, British Leyland are in the form of public limited companies. It is obviously seen that Mrs.
Thatcher’s policies had a close relationship to each other and each affected one another, and because of this single-party rule over a long period, it was possible for the government to implement a series of reforms. In her later years, she extended her ‘Thatcher revolution’ from the economics of finance and industry into new area of social policy, through the further privatization of education, health care, and housing. Tony Blair’s Home Policies To bluntly put, when Mr. Blair became the Prime Minister in 1997, most works have been done, prepared to be done or in the process, since Mrs. Thatcher’s time.
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It was likely that the fundamental structures of the country were already laid. Although problems and conflicts happened, they were finally solved, by either Mr. Major or even Mr. Blair.
Therefore, there were little changes in the policies, except the sequences of priorities. Based on the Labour Party’s manifesto promises for the last General Election, the Labour stated that education was the first priority; the rates of income tax would not change; a stable economic growth with low inflation would be promoted; the young unemployed should be off the benefit and into work; the National Health Service would be rebuilt; strong families and communities would be promoted; environment would be safeguarded, and last but not least the House of Lords must be reformed. When compared with Mrs. Thatcher’s policies, it was shown that the Labour policies covered no change on income tax rates, low inflation, unemployment. On the one hand, although these policies were quite similar with those policies of Tory, the priorities were different. On the other hand, the home policies of the Tory did not touch topics of education (despite of the fact that it was the number one task for the Labour), health service, families and communities (such as problem of homelessness), life in the rural areas and environment, whereas the domestic policies of the Labour did not cover privatization and the state re engineering.
It is explicit that the Labour Party emphasized social policies more than the economic policies, and it was the government duties to work on them. 2. Foreign Affairs Policies International relationships have always been essential to Britain’s well-being In the past, it was due to its overseas Empire and its dominance in world affairs. But today it is because of the importance of international trade and finance to the economy. It can be said that the international policies of Thatcher and Blair share some similarities and differences. Consider the roles of Britain toward NATO as an example.
... back down from a commitment, which again illustrates the change in foreign policies. The application of the containment strategy to Vietnam was ... this was not the only reason as longer-term changes in U.S. foreign policy became apparent during the Vietnam conflict. These ... Cold War, but it also illustrates a change in thinking in U.S. foreign policy about the spread of communism. It was ...
The first similar view is about NATO. Mrs. Thatcher always affirmed Britain’s strong commitment to NATO, and Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent. Similarly, Mr.
Blair also has made it clear that NATO will remain the ultimate guarantor of Britain’s defense. Another resemblance is the roles of Britain in the international conflicts. In 1982, the government’s response to the Argentinian invasion of the Falkland Island, by dispatching a naval task force to replant the Union Flag in Port Stanley, restored it to popular favour, and helped Mrs. Thatcher to win the General Election in 1983. Likewise, it is Mr.
Blair’s intention to bring Britain to the front role of the global situations. It is said that in the manifesto that Britain cannot be strong at home if it is weak abroad. Recently, being called as an American truer friend by George W. Bush, Mr. Blair supported and stood side by side with the United States against the terrorists. Perhaps, this will bring positive votes to the Labour Party for the next General Election.
As for the difference of the international policies, it can be seen from the parties’ views toward British membership of the European Community. Britain was reluctant to join the European Economic Community (EEC) since 1957, and it took the country 16 years to make the final decision and became a member of the EEC. Again, history repeats itself. Although Britain has been a member of European Union (EU), there are pro-European and Euro sceptic arguments. The Conservative Party thought that Britain should remain a member, but with caution. Mrs.
Thatcher doubted and disagreed to integrate the Pound into a common European currency. In contrast, the Labour Party held an extreme idea by wanting the country to withdraw from EU. In addition, Mr. Blair said in 1997 that ‘ we would not join in any fudge single currency… I know exact what the British people feel when they see the Queen’s head on a 10 note.
I feel it too’. However, this very Mr. Blair is changing his mind. Recently, he and his party have launched several Pro-European campaigns by putting that ‘Europe today is not an ideology but a lived experience that most people never want to do without again’. The root of the doubts is that Britain has never been fully in the EU from the beginning, then they have never been able to have a chance to draw up the rules – whether of the EU’s budget, the Common Agricultural Policy, the European Monetary System, the Exchange Rate Mechanism or even the euro. For these reasons, Mr.
Blair has made it clear that even the idea of taking Britain into the euro is ‘unpopular’, he will recommend it, if it is the right thing to do. 3. Impacts on Britain It is remarkable that the results of Thatcherism were so spectacular and popular that it took the Labour Party 4 election defeats. Certainly, her domestic policies management has various impacts on Britain and British people more than those of Mr. Blair. To begin with, her commitment to improve the quality and efficiency of the civil service creates benefits to general public.
Likewise, it helps the state organizations to compete with the private organizations. Secondly, the privatization of the state enterprises made a decade ago brings about better services to all walks of life nowadays. For example, the services and fees of British Telecom are more competitive to the public. Although British Rail usual causes problems, the market mechanism will control the problems. No one likes changes, and it takes time to accept them. Inevitably, Thatcherism also caused social impacts.
It gave birth to a society of Filofax, and mobile phone yuppies- a new class drawn from a cross section of other classes, backgrounds and educations. Most people enjoyed new opportunities and well-beings. In comparison, Mr. Blair has done many things, but nothing is new. Yet, his policy toward the euro will surely affect Britain, and it remains to be seen. Summary It is believed that all governments, no matter they are Conservative, Labour or Liberal, have worked for the best interests of the country.
Time changes, and people changes. Changes are also seen in the Labour Party. Presumably, it is for the best of the people. Later on, we will see changes in the Conservative Party. Things and people have to change to survive. However, power is mortal, but what people glory is immortal.
References 1. Derbyshire, J. Dennis (1984) An Introduction to Public Administration, Berkshire: Mcgraw-Hill 2. Metcalfe, Les and Richards, Sue (1987) Improving Public Management London: Sage 3. Sallis, Edwards (1982) The Machinery of Government Sussex: Holt, Rinehart & Winston 4.
The Guardian from the web.